In a defensive move designed to mitigate US Government anti-trust pressures, Microsoft has taken a drastic and highly controversial step. Yesterday Microsoft Chairman William H. Gates announced that the company had purchased a small island from the Netherland Antilles, eighty-one miles north of Venezuela and the South American coast. According to a statement by the Antilles government, "The land we sold to Microsoft consists of 4,500 uninhabited acres situated on a small island jewel of the Caribbean."
The purpose of the Microsoft purchase became clear late yesterday afternoon when the previously unnamed island applied for nation-state status at the United Nations, with the full support of the Netherland Antilles, the Netherlands, Jamaica, Haiti and several other Caribbean countries. Cuba was the only vocal dissenter, citing "unbridled criminal capitalism will be dealt a swift blow if they attempt to export their corruption to our peaceful island communities." Microsoft promised to pay its United Nations dues five years in advance and bring up the arrears accounts of several neighboring countries as a show of the kind of neighbor it promises to be.
While neither Mr. Gates nor Microsoft President Steve Balmer would explicitly confirm the leaks from senior sources, it does appear that the purpose is to move the company's legal corporate identity out of the United States to the new nation-state island, where the US Department of justice has no control.
Once the tiny island, named Microbillesia, is accepted by the United Nations, Microsoft will commence the migration of its headquarters and corporate offices. This action does not require United States approval. The plan for the company move, expected to take four years, will involve the movement of several thousands of people from the Seattle area to Microbillesia and nearby islands.
Financial analysts call the move "brilliantly conceived." If Microsoft does invest an estimated $4-5 billion in the move, the payback can occur in less than two years, based upon Microsoft's current federal tax obligations. Over a twenty-year period, Microsoft could save tens of billions of dollars, which will be handed right over to shareholders as increased profits.
On the other hand, Michael Silvers, senior analyst at Ramtech Investments, San Jose, California, suggests, "maybe this is merely corporate brinkmanship on a global scale, to see who will blink first," with Microsoft hoping the Department of Justice will ease up its pressures rather than lose the company's entire tax base. Insiders say Microsoft felt compelled to take this step because of the intense anti-monopoly investigations and the increasingly negative images of William H. Gates and his company.
Silvers's company has spent a great deal of time analyzing the confrontation. He continued by saying, "If they do actually make this move, the government could conceivably levy heavy import taxes on Microsoft products, and then the two countries would have to negotiate a most-favored nations status treaty. Who knows how pissed off the State Department will be. They could still make Gates' life miserable. What if they refused to give him a visa to travel stateside?" Microsoft dismissed such negativity, and said there were many small details and the US would have to play fair with Microbillesia in the international court of opinion. Silvers countered by commenting that such arrogance will only continue to hurt Microsoft. "They can ignore US laws all they want; they can run to their own little country island. But the United States still has the power to pummel Bill Gates feet first into the sand, and the more he pulls stunts like this, the more and more likely they will be to use quicksand."
Health officials also show deep concerns over the proposed move. Dr. Fred Wedel, Seattle, Washington, worries. "Can't you see what will happen? Thousands of pale-skinned, pasty-faced kids who only get to see the sun two or three days a year in Seattle will suddenly be exposed to the torrid heat of an equatorial sun. I expect the cancer rate on Microbillesia will be significantly higher than in almost any country on Earth, within ten years," he predicted.
Microsoft scoffed at Dr. Wedel's assertions. "There is no statistical basis for his accusations. We are currently working on an Excel plug-in that will show the actual numbers to more closely match the reality we need.
"United Nations approval is expected, and Microbillesia's first corporate citizen will be Microsoft, BL, Microbillesia, formerly Microsoft, USA.
The exact price of the island purchase was not disclosed and has been sealed. However, Jan van Zelbert, spokesperson for the Antilles government, did confirm that along with Mamaica, Haiti, and Antigua, the would receive unlimited free copies of Windows 2000, Office HAL-2001 and other Microsoft products period of twenty years. Microsoft's share price rose 17 7/8 dollars yesterday on the news that it would declare itself an independent country in the next quarter.
For more details see the Microsoft web site: http://www.microsoft.com/hoax/
(Note: This URL is 404 as of October, 2000)
*Reprinted from "The Future of Microsoft" chapter of Winn Schwartau's Cybershock. (Interesting book, worth the price.)
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